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Tirey Law Oct. 12, 2017

One of the more difficult and important things to plan for in an estate is passing along copyrights.

Copyright law is often opaque and not well known to the general public.  Most people have no idea what exactly it is that copyrights protect, how they are enforced, and how copyrights are passed along between generations.

Someone might know, for example, that it is a copyright violation to download and distribute music someone else created.  On the other hand, they probably do not know that liability for such a violation depends on if and when the music has been properly registered with the Copyright Office.

How copyrights are transferred between two people is also very complicated, which has implications for  estate planning as the Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog discusses in "Planning and Administering Copyrights in an Artist's Estate."

One of the important things to keep in mind is that a copyright is not a single right.  It is a collection of several different rights, including the right to copy, the right to distribute, the right to make derivative works and the right to perform.

Ownership of any or all of these rights can be transferred to another person or entity – or a license can be given for a temporary period of time to give another person any or all of those rights.

That means people who hold copyrights have several estate planning options for how to pass those rights along.

If you have copyrights, it is very important that you talk to an estate planning attorney about how those rights will survive you and who you want to have them.

Reference: Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog (Sep. 15, 2017) "Planning and Administering Copyrights in an Artist's Estate."